Strange bedfellows

Jenny Macklin may (or may not*) have said that she could live on Centrelink Newstart benefits of $35 a day (and whether this includes rent is equally unclear).

Former industrial relations lawyer and Melbourne hipster Adam Bandt (Greens) has said he’s also willing to give it a go, as long as Jenny comes and lives with him.

Don’t listen to him, Jenny. He just wants you to live with him so you can increase your Centrelink benefits. He doesn’t love you at all. And I can prove it.

Centrelink has one of those new-fangled calculating thingummies that let you compare various welfare rates and get an estimate of how much you might be paid.

At her age and owning her own home, but with nothing else on her books (no income of any kind at all) and no dependent children, Jenny would get $492.60 a fortnight on the Newstart allowance, or around $35 a day.

However, Jenny and Adam, cohabiting in Jenny’s house and again with nothing on the books and no dependent children, would get a rather more promising $444.70 each, or $889.40 a fortnight.

And if they stay together for six months, they can split their assets – Jenny’s home – fifty-fifty when they break up, so it’s all good. Let’s assume Jenny lives in her electorate, which includes suburbs like Ivanhoe, and a nice 3 bedroom house there can go for as much as a million. So for Adam, all this would be a nice little earner for a mere six months’ cohabitation.

However, if Jenny and Adam are renting, rather than living in Jenny’s own home, they can get a very small amount of rent assistance. If they’re living together in a one-bedroom unit in Ivanhoe, this would set them back around $300 a week. With Centrelink Newstart allowance and rent assistance, their individual fortnightly income now rises to $501.60, or a combined income of just over a thousand dollars a fortnight. $600 of that goes out in rent, but that leaves them $400 to cover everything else – around $14 a day for each of them.

Thankfully they’ll be cycling everywhere and/or taking public transport, which will save them a fortune.

And if they stay together till November this year, who knows? One or both might just manage to scrape into their seats again through the sheer weight of the sympathy vote. Let’s face it: would you want to live with either of them?

*Editor’s note: She said it, alright — car noises and edited transcripts from the minister’s office notwithstanding.

Philippa Martyr blogs at Transverse City

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